Daily Dispatches
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., left, and Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., right
Associated Press/Photo by J. Scott Applewhite
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., left, and Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., right

House committee votes to hold Lois Lerner in contempt

IRS Scandal

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee voted this morning to hold former IRS official Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress for refusing to testify about the extra scrutiny the IRS gave to conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.

During two appearances before the committee, Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination. But during her first appearance, she read a written statement proclaiming her innocence, therefore waiving her constitutional right not to testify, Republicans said.

Democrats on the committee, and Lerner’s attorney, disagreed. According to Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., Congress has never had much success in prosecuting people who refused to testify. The only examples provided by the Congressional Research Service involved people called to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities in the 1950s.

We see you’ve been enjoying the content on our exclusive member website. Ready to get unlimited access to all of WORLD’s member content?
Get your risk-free, 30-Day FREE Trial Membership right now.
(Don’t worry. It only takes a sec—and you don’t have to give us payment information right now.)

Get your risk-free, 30-Day FREE Trial Membership right now.

“I do not want to go back to the shameful era when Congress tried to strip away the constitutional rights of American citizens under the bright lights of hearings that had nothing to do with responsible oversight and everything to do with the worst kind of partisan politics,” Cummings said.

From the beginning, Democrats have claimed Republicans only want to go after Lerner to keep the IRS targeting scandal alive. But Republicans insist she needs to be held accountable for her actions.

“We need Ms. Lerner’s testimony to complete our oversight work,” said Committee chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif. “American taxpayers certainly don’t get to plead the Fifth and escape all accountability when the IRS audits them.”

An attorney for 41 organizations suing the federal government over the illegal targeting said after the vote the committee’s action was appropriate.

“Lerner has misled the American people and Congress from the very start,”said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice. “Contempt is justified and the appropriate sanction in this case.”

The committee’s recommendation to hold Lerner in contempt—approved with a 21-12 party-line vote—will now go to the full House. Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, seemed confident Republicans would have no problem approving the measure.

“If Lois Lerner continues to refuse to testify, then the House will hold her in contempt,” he said.

The House Ways and Means Committee voted separately Wednesday to refer Lerner to the Justice Department for possible criminal prosecution. The committee’s investigators say they have evidence she may have violated the constitutional rights of conservative groups, misled investigators, and risked exposing confidential taxpayer information. But Lerner’s chances of facing prosecution by her former Obama administration colleagues are slim to none.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Leigh Jones
Leigh Jones

Leigh lives in Houston with her husband and daughter. She is the managing editor of WORLD's website.


You must be a WORLD member to post comments.

    Keep Reading


    Job-seeker friendly

    Southern California churches reach the unemployed through job fairs 


    After a fiery trial

    Intelligent design proponent David Coppedge reflects on his wrongful termination…